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Twin British sisters say deaths of five Britons near Tofino, B.C., cut deeply

Trudi and Astrid Castle (credit: CP).

TOFINO, B.C. — Twin sisters with British roots say the deaths of five people in a whale watching boat that capsized off the west coast of Vancouver Island cut even deeper knowing the deceased were from the United Kingdom.

Trudi and Astrid Castle said Wednesday they feel connected to the disaster, which is under investigation.

The sisters grew up in London but now Trudi lives in Vancouver and Astrid makes her home in Berlin.

They were vacationing in the remote village of Tofino, B.C., to get away from the hustle of city life when they heard about the deaths of five Britons, ranging from age 18 to 76. An Australian man remains missing.

"It's just completely tragic," said Astrid Castle, who visited Tofino's First Street dock overlooking the Pacific Ocean and nearby islands where the vessel is believed to have rolled Sunday during a big wave.

"It's sad if it happens to anyone, and then when you hear (they were) British it also feels a lot more like really awful to hear, especially as tourists here," Castle said.

"I'm gathering they were all tourists as well and they were just coming for a nice time, a nice holiday. And they go out and something like that happens."

A police dive team made its second attempt Wednesday afternoon to search the whale-watching boat, which capsized near Vargas Island, about 12 kilometres from Tofino, with 27 passengers and crew on board.

Heavy waves prevented RCMP officers from conducting a morning search, but receding winds gave them another chance to survey the vessel.

The Transportation Safety Board is hoping to recover electronic equipment that could establish the vessel's location and condition when it capsized.

The TSB has said sightseeing passengers crowded the top deck of the vessel when it was hit by a wave and then rolled, sending people into the water.

"We know that most passengers and crew were on the top deck on the port side ... this would have raised the centre of gravity, affecting the vessel's stability," Marc-Andre Poisson, the TSB's director of marine investigations, said Tuesday.

"We also know that the sea conditions were such that the wave approached the vessel from the starboard quarter," he said. "We know the vessel broached and then capsized."

Members of the missing Australian man's family arrived at an airport near Tofino on Wednesday but did not comment as they left in a waiting vehicle.

Trudi Castle said she and her sister are life-long city dwellers who are aware of the potential dangers in an urban environment though nature is supposed to be mostly peaceful.

"In nature you just have to be careful because there's lots of things out of your control."

The BC Coroners Service identified the five victims as Britons David Thomas, 50, and his 18 year-old son Stephen; Jack Slater, 76, a British national living in Toronto; Katie Taylor, a 29-year-old Briton living in Whistler, B.C., and 63-year-old Nigel Hooker of Southampton, England.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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